Civic and business leaders joined California State University, Northridge officials last night as the university celebrated the launch of the LACI@CSUN Business Incubator.
CSUN and the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) have joined together to create a venue to help startups from CSUN and throughout the San Fernando Valley discover opportunities, create enterprises and connect with a global network of businesses and investors.
CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison hailed the partnership as the “next phase of engagement with businesses and industries to make a positive impact on the economic growth of our region through invention, experimentation and creativity.”
“LACI@CSUN will also help students, faculty and alumni understand how ideas can become a reality in the arena of new enterprise,” she said. “It will provide another link between the innovative minds among alumni, students and faculty and the larger region and the ongoing work in teaching and research at CSUN.”
Among those who joined Harrison and other university officials to celebrate the partnership Sept. 16 were Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation President Bill Allen, Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Kelli Bernard and many other Los Angeles area business leaders.
LACI’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters provides young companies with flexible office space, CEO coaching, strategy sessions and workshops, as well as access to investors and prospective customers. The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator has just been ranked the sixth best university-associated business incubator in the world by the University Business Incubator Index. In addition to working with CSUN, LACI also currently partners with UCLA and USC. LACI is one of only four U.S. business incubators on the global list.
CSUN and LACI officials are hoping LACI@CSUN will help launch new San Fernando Valley businesses and generate sustained job growth for the region.
“LACI@CSUN will be a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization at CSUN and across the San Fernando Valley business ecosystem,” said Erik Steeb, executive director of LACI@CSUN. “The incubator will attract the region’s top entrepreneurs and leverage CSUN assets to help mold these startups into game-changing businesses with global impact.”
The incubator gives the university “an important additional dimension to the array of ways in which CSUN and its students and faculty contribute to the future of California and beyond,” said Joyce Feucht-Haviar, dean of CSUN’s Tseng College of Extended Learning, which is supporting the first phase of the partnership.
Steeb said the partnership between LACI and CSUN was a natural evolution.
“CSUN recognizes that the economy and business environment have shifted in the last decade,” he said. “Universities can play a central role in driving the economic success of their communities and, by bringing LACI to campus, CSUN accelerates the establishment and success of new business.”
While LACI’s downtown location is focused on clean tech, Steeb emphasized that the CSUN incubator will concentrate on more than developing renewable energy innovation.
“When we engaged CSUN, our goal was to marry our strengths,” he said. “CSUN’s tech strength is well respected in the Colleges of Engineering and Computer Science and Science and Mathematics. But there are also great strengths in education, health and human development, arts, media, communications and more. The same can be said for the CSUN alumni.”
Among the startups LACI has helped get off the ground is Pick My Solar, a website created by CSUN alumnus Max Aram that allows homeowners interested in solar power to receive bids from companies with transparency. Aram’s business already has seen significant signs of success, winning a $100,000 SoCal Innovation Fund award that is helping to grow the business.
“Joining LACI was a major milestone for our company, said Aram, who graduated from CSUN in 2013 with a master’s degree in manufacturing systems engineering. “It is like the extension of your team. Having constant access to smart and experienced advisers is an invaluable asset for first-time entrepreneurs like myself.”
The kickoff event highlighted CSUN’s long history of entrepreneurialism and alumni and former students who have gone on to launch successful businesses. These include Irv Zakheim, founder of Zak Designs; Phillip and Gayle Tauber, founders of Kashi; Harvey Bookstein, co-founder and partner of RBZ; Mike Curb, founder of Curb Records; James Berk, founder and CEO of Participant Productions; and David Nazarian, founder and CEO of Nimes Capital.
For more information about LACI@CSUN, visit http://csun.laci.org/.